Being a survivalist and prepper, I have eaten just about everything that is edible at one point or another. This includes rats, mice, opossum, squirrel, muskrat, raccoon, and just about any other critter you can think of. My wife absolutely hates mice and rats from when she lived in NYC, and for a good reason. Rodents that live in big cities, eat garbage, and live together in small spaces are known to spread disease. However, there is nothing wrong with eating rodents that live in nature. In many parts of the world, it is entirely normal to see rodents on the menu in restaurants or at street vendors. This is most common in parts of East and Southeast Asia. In some countries, you can even buy the meat in the grocery store.
Moreover, it is ideal to eat rodents that you have raised yourself. In Central and South America, you will find rodent farms all over. If you are controlling their environment, living conditions, and food sources, then you know you are getting the healthiest meat possible.
My experience with eating rodents has primarily come from my survival challenges. With over two dozen ventures into the wilderness, I have done my share of dining on critters. However, all of them have been taken by trapping or hunting. If you want a more reliable food source, raising rodents is the way to go. Some parts of the world have made this big business. Rat meat is often loaded into tins and sold like sardines. Roughly 2 tons of rat meat is exported from Cambodia every day. I personally know several prepper friends that get a good amount of the protein in their diet from their rodent farms. Some experts have argued that raising and eating rodents could be an ideal solution for starvation in many parts of the world. In this article, we will cover the reasons why you may want to raise rodents for food and how to go about the process.
The Big Picture
Let’s face it… the world population is growing at a rate that will increase world hunger significantly if we don’t make changes. Estimates show that the population of our planet will be above 9 billion within the next 30 years. To feed all of these additional mouths, we will need a proportionate increase in food production. This is just not possible with our current primary farming methods. We need to think outside of the box, and rodents could be a part of that. We currently spend a huge amount of money on killing rats and other rodents as pests. Instead of this, we could be raising them as a primary source of protein.
One of the most favorable aspects of raising rodents for food is the rate at which they breed. In addition to this significant plus, they also can have a one to five ratio of male to females. Finally, you can house lots of rodents in a single container, and they are happy consuming waste food that humans would typically not eat. There are over a dozen different species that would work well for mini livestock for different reasons. Cane rats in Africa and Guinea pigs need very little space to remain healthy and are medium-sized rodents growing up to 20 lbs. in weight. Capybaras in South America are much larger and yield even more meat but need more space to grow.
While mini-livestock farms using rodents are typically found in rural areas, they could provide food sources in urban areas as well. As space for farming becomes more limited, more and more people will try to raise their own rodents at home. Because rodents require less space, food, and water than cattle or hogs, they could realistically be raised in urban areas. Rodent farming would likely not replace beef and pork but supplement it to take the pressure off of those industries. Rodents could also do well in environments not conducive to hogs or cattle. A great example would be mountainous areas where grazing is not an option.
Setting up Your Rodent Farm
Currently, the best resources that we have for rodent farms are coming from companies that raise rats and mice for pet consumption. Reptiles and birds of prey kept as pets need these rodents for food sources, and the rodents are raised the same way you would raise them.
Enclosures – Any rodent enclosure should keep them in a designated space. You do not want any rodents to run free as they will likely escape or cause damage. They love to chew and to get into unintended food sources. You want to give them enough room to move around freely as they usually would. Be sure they have a consistent source of food and water, which you can access easily to clean and refill the containers. Ideally, you will want good ventilation, temperatures between 70F and 80F, and a normal humidity of 30-70%. Some rodents have fragile or sensitive skin, so avoid any sharp or pointy surfaces. Your containers should be rust-resistant so you can wash them out regularly.
Bedding – Put down bedding that will absorb and cover the smell of urine and feces such as wood chips. Avoid using scented or aromatic bedding as it could cause illness in the rodents. Consider composting your used bedding to avoid disposal costs.
Location – You should set up your farm in an area where other animals cannot enter. There should be lots of ventilation and air movement, and you should have a normal balance of light hours and dark hours like the rodents would experience in nature. You should also have an isolation area to quarantine animals that are brought in from outside or might be sick. It is nice to set up your rodent farm in a room that has drains in the floor for easy cleaning. You also want to have secure storage for rodent food so no animals can get into the stockpile.
Feeding Rodents – One of the best aspects of raising rodents is that they often will eat the scraps that humans would typically throw away after cooking or eating a meal. It is fine to feed rodents these scraps, but having some standard rodent feed with ideal amounts of protein, fats, and carbohydrates is a good idea.
Disease Prevention – You will want to consult with a veterinarian any time you are worried about the health of your animals. Be sure not to allow any outside wild rodents to enter your farm or food storage as they could transmit disease. If any of your animals escape from the farm, you will need to put them down to prevent them from spreading disease. Keep an eye out for breathing issues, weight loss, changes in fur, dry skin, strange posture, lethargy, red eye, poor balance, tumors, or stool issues as they could be signs of disease. If you see these issues, quarantine that particular animal.
As you can see, with a small amount of space and care, you can raise rodents to create an ongoing food source for you and your family. As with any animals you raise, you do want to be careful about your setup and care to keep the animals healthy. With minimal cost, you can get started, and within the first year, you will have plenty of protein to supplement other meats or to replace them altogether.